Design Systems in a Headless CMS like Contentful: Why UI/UX Designers Love Them
By Lindsay Reynolds
Good design can make or break a content experience. In a world where customers are bombarded by a variety of channels and platforms, good design can help your brand differentiate your digital products. User interfaces need to be sleek and messaging needs to be clear, and many organizations do this exceptionally well when catering to niche audiences.
But what happens when you need to create personalized digital experiences for a massive audience across multiple channels? That’s where design systems and a headless CMS come into play. For frontend developers and UX designers, these systems can be the key to delivering the quality experience customers want today.
In this article, we’ll dive into UI/UX design systems and how they work, explain how they can give more freedom to UI/UX designers and how to combine design systems with a content platform like Contentful to create exceptional digital experiences at scale.
What is a Design System?
A design system is a collection of reusable components with well-defined use cases. It is essentially the brand bible that everyone follows, containing the very foundation of a brand, including typography, color palette, iconography, imagery/illustrations, logo usage, brand voice, the overarching brand principles & values, and more.
Design teams can leverage these design systems to create websites and numerous other content applications as they provide a standardized and repeatable process for managing design at scale.
Two elements make up any design system:
- A design repository, which contains style guides, component and pattern libraries.
- The people managing the system or the design team, which is usually made up of UX designers and frontend developers.
Design systems combine patterns, libraries, fonts, and colors with standardized principles to achieve consistent visual design. Teams can create design systems from scratch or adapt an existing design system to their needs.
How Design Systems Free Up UI/UX Designers (And Frontend Design as a Whole)
Incorporating design systems can provide several benefits for organizations, including:
Faster Creation and Delivery
Design systems enable design teams to create new interfaces and launch content faster since everything doesn’t need to be built from scratch. With access to pre-built components, teams can get started on their designs quicker since they don’t have to spend as much time deciding which designs to use. This allows teams to implement more streamlined workflows and processes, launch products faster and deliver content to customers faster.
One of the biggest challenges for content and design teams is scaling production. However, with design systems, scaling becomes much easier since decision fatigue gets reduced. Implementing designs quickly allows teams to meet the demand of creating personalized experiences and publishing content on multiple channels.
Improved Brand Consistency
Creating a consistent customer experience in a multichannel environment can be difficult. With design systems, achieving brand consistency becomes simpler as they provide the necessary guidelines and components that design teams can follow. Design systems act as a single source of truth for what content and marketing materials should look like, enabling content and interfaces on different platforms to feel like part of a cohesive brand experience.
Collaboration between developers, UX designers, marketers, and other content creators is necessary to create the type of experience customers want today. Design systems allow these groups to collaborate more effectively as they provide a dedicated language and process that everyone can follow to stay in sync.
Reduces Strain and Dependency
Design systems can reduce strain on designers by shifting their focus to the most complex issues they must face, rather than worrying about minor details. The repeatable components found in design systems make handling those smaller issues easier. Marketers can also benefit from these design systems as they remove the templated restrictions that require them to depend on developers to make changes to the content within the CMS.
Point of Reference
With design systems in place, brands have a point of reference they can return to if there are any arguments about how an element of design should look. They can also leverage these design systems to quickly onboard new team members and showcase the brand guidelines that must be followed.
Why (and How) Headless CMSs are Adopting “Traditional” Tooling
While the concept of design systems is nothing new and can be considered a traditional approach to organizing content and designs, the value they provide for brands today cannot be overlooked.
Headless CMS platforms have enabled businesses to deliver content to multiple channels, from traditional websites or mobile applications to new and emerging interfaces such as smartwatches and digital kiosks.
Delivering an exceptional user experience today requires that brands maintain consistency across the numerous channels where content gets published. These digital experiences must also be created at speed and scaled to accommodate multiple audiences. Design systems facilitate this brand consistency and scalability by making it easier for everyone involved to work together and saving them time in the process.
That time-saving capacity is crucial in a headless CMS where the frontend and backend are separated. Frontend developers and backend developers will find it easier to work together as they can work in parallel, as the frontend design doesn’t have to be at a standstill until certain backend logic is implemented.
Why Design Systems Matter in a Headless CMS Like Contentful
By providing a system-based approach that can be applied to content, design systems as they help to promote reusability. Combining a set of reusable components in different ways opens up a variety of possibilities for brands when it comes to content creation.
Contentful’s approach to structured content mirrors this concept of reusability and can be combined with design systems, allowing brands to increase the speed of content production and ensure consistency. Design teams can spend less time creating content from scratch, and content can be recycled for use across multiple channels.
Brands that want to get the most out of design systems need to leverage a content platform like Contentful, which offers headless flexibility and freedom. At Content Bloom, we offer years of expertise working in headless content management and omnichannel marketing to help you maximize the capabilities of the Contentful CMS. Along with our research-driven UI/UX design approach, your business will have all the help it needs to deliver the exceptional content experiences your customers are craving.
Discover all the ways Content Bloom can help you enhance the customer experience by taking a look at our end-to-end digital consulting services.
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